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my coworker told HR I’m resigning when I’m not, boss wants daily task updates, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker told HR I’m resigning when I’m not

I recently got a job offer from a company that I was super excited about, but when the details came through about a day later, the offer turned out to be really, really bad. Simply cannot take this job as I can’t survive on what they’re offering bad. I negotiated and it’s not working out. But that isn’t my point!

I am close with a few coworkers of mine. The office is relatively empty except for us due to Covid. When the initial “we want to hire you” offer came through, I quietly told them about it as they knew I have been looking for a new job for a very long time. Not smart, I know. But I was excited. I updated them as well when the crappy offer came through.

That was about a week ago. Today I got an email from our HR person (small company) asking if I am resigning. She had heard and didn’t see a resignation letter from me. I immediately chewed out my friends, but it turned out to be a totally different person who I didn’t even know was in the office at the time. They overheard me and told her “in passing.”

I’m fuming. This is so awkward. And maybe even really, really bad for me. Is it? Not sure how to calculate the damage here. What do I do?

First, obligatory reminder that this is always a risk when you talk about this stuff at work. People overhear, people talk, people are busybodies, etc. That said, agggh! Your coworker was incredibly out of line.

What kind of impact it will have on you is hard to say. It’s very unlikely that that you’re going to be summarily fired, but there are a bunch of individual factors that can affect things, like whether your manager is punitive or the type to push you out early once she believes you’re soon to leave. Even if she’s not like that, sometimes there can be more subtle effects, like not giving you big long-term projects that she thinks would suffer if you left in the middle or putting you on a layoff list if she needs to make cuts because she figures you’re leaving anyway. It also depends on your standing — if you’re highly valued, it might not affect you at all or could even result in your manager asking what it would take to keep you. On the other hand, if you’re struggling in your work or you have a bad relationship with your boss, it could play out differently.

I’d recommend telling the HR person she misunderstood the situation / it got garbled in translation — say that a job offer fell in your lap but you turned it down. And since it’s likely that she filled in your boss, you should probably address it with her too (framed as “Jane asked me about this so I figured you might be wondering too”).

2. Should I ask for the low end of a salary range when I’m interviewing?

I’m job hunting. This may not be conventional, but I just want whatever the lower end of the offered salary range is with the understanding that I will get a raise in a years time. I’m new to the field (as in just graduated and looking for my first job that isn’t a coop/internship). Salaries in my field go two ways: salaried jobs pay a lower hourly rate but you get paid for 35-40 hours, whereas private firms pay double — or more — per service/client (most often on an hourly basis) but you get paid for fewer hours than you actually work (if you see clients for 20 hours, you probably work 30-35 hours total). It works out to more money if you work in a higher paying private setting vs public and you theoretically work a bit less. Regardless, I am happy with the low end of the ranges in both cases because it’s still more than I’ve ever been paid in my life and I presume that, given that a range is stated, I will get raises for sticking around, getting more experience and training, etc.

Does it look bad if I am honest about that in interviews? I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot but I also feel like saying, “I’m newer to the field so my expectation is that I’ll get paid something near $X/hour because of A and B factors and my target annual income is something around $Y-$Z/year. Does that line up with what you’re hoping to pay someone at my level?” (Most jobs in my field list salary so that second bit is more about having a conversation). But I’m not sure how that will reflect on me. Will it make it look like I’m realistic about my experience level? After all, who wants to pay a newbie the highest amount and I also want the prospects of getting raises and not coming in at the top of the scale. Or will it make me look like I am insecure and lowballing myself? I don’t want to come off seeming like I don’t think I deserve more.

Don’t undercut yourself! You shouldn’t ask for the top of the range for your first job unless your qualifications would truly put you there, but you shouldn’t ask for the lowest end either.

Frankly, if it’s your field’s norm to list the pay in ads, this may not come up in interviews at all since they’ll know you already know the range. But if they do ask about it, you can just say that the range they listed works for you.

The fact that the lowest end of the range is more than you’ve ever been paid is irrelevant! When you’re looking for your first full-time professional job, that’s usually going to be the case — but you should still seek to get paid competitively. And your starting salary can influence what you get paid for a long time, so you really don’t want to lower it if you don’t have to. You’re also putting too much weight on wanting to be able to get raises — you’ll probably still be able to, and raises are often a percentage of your salary, so a lower starting salary means lower increases each year.

Don’t be unrealistic in what you ask for, especially when you’re just starting out, but you shouldn’t preemptively ask for less than might be on offer.

3. My boss wants daily task updates

Today in our one-on-one, my boss asked me to start sending him daily updates on what I’ve completed. I’ve been in this position about six months and have received positive feedback so far. For the first three months of this position, we met every morning, but backed off to twice weekly one-on-one meetings about two months ago. We are a remote team of two professionals inside a very large department.

I pushed back lightly on this when it was first proposed, but feel like I should consider revisiting the issue with my manager. I’m very unhappy with this request, it leaves me feeling untrusted and anxious. Do you have any advice on revisiting this conversation? This kind of behavior leaves me feeling like I made a mistake accepting this position.

Start by trying to find out what’s behind the request. Did something give him concerns about your work? Is he being pushed by his own boss for more info about what your team is doing? Where’s this coming from?

You could say it this way: “Your request for daily updates made me worry you might have concerns about my work. Did something change to make you request that level of reporting?”

Depending on the answer, it could then be appropriate to say, “Daily reporting feels like a significant change, and I’d understood the role to function more independently when I came on board. If you don’t have concerns with my work, is there another system that would get you what you need, like monthly goals and a weekly meeting to discuss progress on them?”

4. How to avoid getting edited to death in a writing job

I have a question specific to writing careers. I’ve worked in a variety of marketing and PR roles, and I keep getting frustrated when I write something I’m proud of and then a committee of coworkers goes in and tears it to shreds.

I get good feedback on my work from my manager (and have been told throughout my career that I’m an excellent writer), so I don’t think it’s a matter of secretly being terrible at my job. It seems more just like everyone thinks they can write, and everyone wants to bring their opinion to the conversation, but it’s frustrating! It’s hard to feel like I have ownership over my work when it ends up being edited so heavily (and often in ways I disagree with). In my current role, I get a lot of edits from people in other departments, like product managers, who certainly have their realm of expertise, but it’s not writing. Didn’t you people hire me for a reason?!

So I guess my question is whether you or others have found a way to defend your writing? Is this just what happens in writing-based roles? Are some companies better than others at letting writers just write? Is it a matter of seniority that will get better as I age in my career (I’m in my late 20s)? Do I just need a thicker skin?

It’s not inherent to writing-based roles, but it is inherent in organizations that aren’t clear about what role each person giving input should play. It’s normal for other people to review your work, but they should each get clear instructions about exactly what input to provide — like “please review pages 5-6 for accuracy” or “review for anything that could trigger legal issues,” etc. You should also be clear about what type of edits and you can and can’t accept at this stage — “please only flag factual errors at this point; we aren’t looking for a line edit” or whatever.

Even with clearly defined instructions, some people will still offer input outside their scope of work, but when you’ve clearly defined what you need them, it’s easier to ignore edits outside of that (although there may still be people whose broader input you need to take because of political reasons). The key, though, is that unless you’re in a senior position with final or close-to-final sign-off authority, your boss needs to be on board with this approach. But it’s a pretty standard approach to use.

All that said, sometimes there are higher considerations than “it sounds best this way” — legal stuff, branding considerations, politics with a funder, and on and on — and as a writer you’ll answer to a variety of people on those fronts. But if someone suggests an edit that you think weakens the piece, you can counter-propose your own; figure out what’s behind their change and see if you have a better way to achieve what their edit is trying to do.

5. Graduation years and age discrimination

My company is in the process of changing the way we apply for internal positions. Instead of submitting a resume and cover letter, we now have to use a “talent profile,” where we list our skills. I’m not too upset about that, because there is still a place to upload my resume, which I’ve worked very hard on. One thing does worry me, though. When entering your education, you are required to put the year of graduation. I am in my 50’s, and don’t want them to see a BA from 1988. I’ve tried 9999 and 0000 and the system won’t accept it. I am in a position where I am aggressively applying for other jobs, and don’t want to be looked over because of my age. My company skews young, anyway. Am I wrong in feeling that this has the potential to be discriminatory? And if so, what can I do?

You’re not wrong; requiring graduation year is very close to requiring age and it opens the door to illegal discrimination. At the federal level, the request itself isn’t illegal but the EEOC says it raises questions about the employer’s motive for asking and should be closely scrutinized. Some states make it outright illegal — but assuming yours isn’t one of them, I’d say this to someone in your company’s HR department: “Can you tell me why we’re requiring the year of graduation in our internal application system? I’m concerned that we could run afoul of federal age discrimination laws by requiring that.”


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